President Barack Obama during a news conference in the East...

President Barack Obama during a news conference in the East Room of the White House. (June 29, 2011) Credit: AP

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama Wednesday again stopped short of saying he supports same-sex marriage, but called New York's emotional legislative debate and vote last week to legalize such unions "a good thing."

"Gays and lesbians and transgender persons" have "got to be treated like every other American," Obama said. But he added that he can't dictate the process and said the principle of equality will come about incrementally.

"What you saw in New York last week, I think, was a good thing," Obama said. "It was contentious, it was emotional, but ultimately they made a decision to recognize civil marriages. And I think that's exactly how things should work."

Obama, who held a Manhattan gay-community fundraiser recently, made his remarks in a news conference just hours before hosting a White House reception for LGBT -- or Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender -- Pride week.

He held out little hope Congress will repeal the Defense Of Marriage Act, which bars federal recognition or benefits for couples in same-sex marriages. He called the act unconstitutional and ended all federal legal defense of it.

Bills introduced in March to repeal the act have stalled in the Republican-controlled House and made little progress in the Democratic-led Senate. Three Long Island Democratic congressmen -- Gary Ackerman, Tim Bishop and Steve Israel -- and both New York senators are co-sponsors of the bills.

The House bill landed in a subcommittee dominated by Republicans opposed to same-sex marriage that has no plans for a hearing, a House aide said.

Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, which opposes same-sex unions, said the chance of a repeal of the act is "zero." Michael Cole-Schwartz the Human Rights Campaign, which advocates for gay rights, agreed.

But he said, "We would love to see some action in the Senate. . . . A good next step would be a Senate hearing."

The Senate Judiciary Committee hasn't set a hearing date. "The prospects for overturning DOMA is more likely to happen in the courts," Cole-Schwartz said. "There are a number of challenges against the portion [of the act] that bars federal benefits for legally married same-sex couples."

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